Two impeachment articles approved

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The Independent Online
FOR ONLY the third time in US history, the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives voted yesterday to recommend the impeachment of the President, approving two of four articles of impeachment alleging that Bill Clinton committed perjury, lying under oath before a federal grand jury and a civil court judge.

The committee voted along party lines, ignoring a dramatic last-minute intervention by the President who reiterated his remorse in a televised address to the nation.

"I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong," a solemn-looking Mr Clinton said in the hastily arranged broadcast, delivered from the White House Rose Garden minutes before the committee vote.

Apologising once again for the pain he had caused his family and the country over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, he announced his readiness to accept a congressional rebuke or censure.

"I understand that accountability demands consequences and I am prepared to accept them," he said.

Mr Clinton admitted for the first time that as well as misleading his family and the American public, he had also misled Congress - a reference to legalistic answers he had given to 81 written questions submitted by the judiciary committee. However, he did not admit to lying under oath, even though the White House chief counsel, Charles Ruff, had acknowledged to the committee this week that "reasonable people" might conclude he had.

Any admission of lying under oath would expose Mr Clinton to criminal charges once he leaves office and weaken the argument against impeachment.

The advisability of a presidential broadcast had been discussed at the White House since early morning, and the final decision was made less than half an hour beforehand. Mr Clinton sets off today for a landmark visit to the Middle East, which includes the first address by a US president to the Palestinian Assembly in Gaza.

In the House of Representatives yesterday, the mood of the 37-member judiciary committee, whose Republican majority reflects the balance of power, was grave and anguished. Arguing the Republican view, the committee chairman, Henry Hyde, said Mr Clinton's conduct "cheapens the oath; it is a breach of promise to tell the truth; it subverts our system of government". Democrats countered that Mr Clinton's wrongdoing was moral, not criminal, and did not rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanours".

The process will reach its climax next week when the full House of Representatives is recalled to debate and vote on whether Mr Clinton should stand trial in the Senate. The vote is regarded as too close to call, and both sides are engaged in intensive lobbying.